Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Greetings from Montpellier, France.
The past year has been quite a challenge for all of us our families,
workplaces, and parishes. The lives and activities of our mission partners
and our work with LCMS-OIM Africa were also affected.
Last year in January-March I was invited to teach Greek at the
seminary of the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church located near the city of
Bo in Sierra Leone. I had been invited to help fill in after the departure of the
previous missionary family, Rev. Douglas and Angela Thompson, who had
served in Sierra Leone for a few years. LCMS-OIM is currently
communicating with the leadership of the church in Sierra Leone to consider
how best to meet the needs of the seminary with possible OIM missionary
presence in the future.
I also was able to attend the annual CAU meeting (board of directors
of the CLET) of the Francophone Lutheran Churches. This was held in
March in Dapaong,Togo. Member churches elected new board members
and initiated discussions on a reworking of a common curriculum for the
three institutes of the Francophone Union that now train future pastors for
the Union churches. The delegates also considered possible restructuring of
the Francophone Union in order to establish a clearer and more solid base of
Lutheran theology and practice as the Union desires to increase the level of
theological instruction at the institutes and to branch out into more projects of
education, translation, and community development.
After completing my time in Sierra Leone, I returned to Dapaong to take up teaching
responsibilities as scheduled. However, it was at this time that Covid-19 was
spreading globally and there was much uncertainty on freedom of travel and the
level of medical care that would be available in case of an outbreak in Togo. In
considering these factors the Wildauer family, who have served along with me in
Dapaong for the past five years, decided at the end of March to evacuate. At that
time, I still desired to stay in Dapaong to continue teaching and to accompany the
CLET leadership as they would navigate the challenges of the pandemic. A few
days after the Wildauer family departed to catch their flight back to the US, LCMSOIM
leadership decided that it would be too much of a risk for me to remain in Togo
by myself without another member of the OIM team. So I packed up a few of my
belongings and drove to Lomé to catch one of the last available flights out of Togo.
There were only nine passengers in my flight to Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia and about
fifteen on the flight to the US. After landing in Chicago, where the O'Hare airport
was practically abandoned, I rented a car, drove into Wisconsin, quickly bought a
stock of groceries at Aldi, and then drove to our family's cottage in central Wisconsin
for two weeks of quarantine.
After two weeks with no symptoms, my parents came to visit for a few days.
It was nice to see them after several months away. Not wanting to just sit in
Wisconsin, I decided to drive down to my modest house in the Arkansas Ozarks,
where there were plenty of house and yard projects to work on while collaborating
online with OIM and African church leaders and reading and writing for graduate
studies. Because movement was limited in the US in the 2020 spring and summer
while the pandemic was continuing to spread, I did not make any trips to visit
congregations at that time.
It had been desired that I would return to Africa in the fall of 2020, but
because of questions on transport and safety measures of Covid-19, my return
continued to be pushed back until the end of March this year.
I finally was able to arrive back in Togo, practically a year to the day since I
had left. I had the privilege of teaching a two-week intensive class on the Means of
Grace to the first-year students at CLET. It was a joy to see my African colleagues
and to be able to participate in seminary and parish worship services again. I was
able to preach for two weeks in a row and to baptize three children. It was also nice
to see Ms. Valerie Stonebreaker, a former OIM missionary, now retired, who had
also returned to Togo and was helping to catalog the newer volumes in the library
that had been added with the container project that arrived a few years back.
At the current time, I am writing from Montpellier, France where I am
participating in intensive language courses in order to refine my professional, written
French and to be certified in this level (C1) according to the Alliance Française.
Although I have spoken and taught in French in daily life for the past seven years,
the limitations of the language used by the local Africans and my students with
whom I usually speak is not at a very high, formal level. Aside from teaching, my
responsibilities as a theological educator also include translation work and
professional verbal and written communication. Because movement on the African
continent is still a bit of a hassle and because vaccination is not progressing
especially rapidly in some African countries, rather than try to travel in Africa at this
time, I, in collaboration with OIM leadership, have opted to use this time to stay in
France, where I can work on this language formation and certification that I have
been wanting to pursue for the past few years.
Lord willing, I will be back on the African continent in early September to
attend the annual CAU meeting of the Francophone Union, which is to be held in
Congo-Brazzaville. This will be a very important meeting for these church leaders
as they give further consideration to their subscription to the Scriptures and the
Lutheran Confessions and what that means for the practices of their churches in
caring for the souls entrusted to their care. There will also be discussion and
clarifications on the administrative aspect of their partnership among their own
church bodies and with LCMS-OIM. I ask for your prayers for these leaders as they
will need to dedicate themselves to much prayer, study, and communication in
preparation for this meeting so that the discussions and decisions that take place
would be fruitful for the work of Christ in His Kingdom among them.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support for the Lord's work to train
future pastors in Francophone Africa.
Rev. Jacob W. Gaugert
Centre Luthrien D'tudes Theologiques
Togocell # (+228) 93 43 95 26
T-Mobile Intl. # (262) 271-3813
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